The Fleshly School Controversy
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Buchanan and the Law

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Harriett Jay

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10. 1896 - 1898







1 January 1896

Alfred Austin is appointed Poet Laureate.


2 January 1896

Buchanan writes a letter to the Pall Mall Gazette concerning the changes he was forced to make to The New Don Quixote.


10 January 1896

Item in The Glasgow Herald:
     ‘I understand that two pieces, both by Mr Robert Buchanan, are before Mr Weedon Grossmith, and that one of them will be the next production at the Vaudeville. The comedies are respectively entitled “Good Old Times” and “The Shop Walker.” They are said to be the survivors of nearly 800 plays by various stage aspirants which this unfortunate manager has had to peruse.’

This item from the London correspondent is dated 9th January, as is Robert Buchanan’s subsequent letter to The Era. I’m not sure where the original item appeared, although it would appear to be with The Stage. However, the main significance of the item is the mention of Good Old Times, the play which would later reach the stage as When Knights were Bold.

11 January 1896

The Era prints a letter from Buchanan:
I see it stated in print to-day that Mr Weedon Grossmith will shortly produce one of two plays, the names of which are incorrectly given, “by Mr Buchanan.” May I ask you to state that, up to the time of writing, I have made no arrangement with Mr Grossmith to produce any work whatever, and that, in any case, I am only the part-author of any work which he may have had under consideration.’

Alfred Austin’s first published work as Poet Laureate (although not sanctioned by the Government) appears in The Times. ‘Jameson’s Ride’ is a poem in praise of the failed Jameson Raid which had taken place over the New Year weekend against Paul Kruger’s Transvaal Republic.

The Romance of the Shopwalker did engender a number of letters to the Press, which can be found here.

29 January 1896

Buchanan attends the funeral of the publisher, Alexander Macmillan, at Bramshott, Hampshire.


1 February 1896

The Era announces that the new play by Robert Buchanan is now in rehearsal at the Vaudeville Theatre.


3 February 1896

According to The Dundee Courier, The New Don Quixote is now in rehearsal at the Royalty Theatre.


6 February 1896

Item in The Stage:
     ‘When I announced that either The Shop Walker or Good Old Times, both by Robert Buchanan, would be the next production at the Vaudeville, the dramatist, with Charles Reade-like vigour, laboured me with abuse – in another paper. Now, however, it appears that The Shopwalker, re-christened The Romance of a Shopwalker, is to be produced on or about Thursday, the 20th inst. The piece is described as a three-act comedy-drama, and the Shopwalker with a romance will be played by Mr. Weedon Grossmith. ... The Romance of a Shopwalker has been written by Robert Buchanan and “Charles Marlowe,” the latter nom de guerre standing, I think, for clever Miss Harriett Jay.’

Although there have been hints before that ‘Charles Marlowe’ was a pseudonym, this is the earliest item I’ve found which names Harriett Jay.

And, although such speculation is pointless, considering the massive success of When Knights were Bold, one does wonder what would have happened to Buchanan’s later career if Weedon Grossmith had chosen to produce Good Old Times rather than The Romance of the Shopwalker.

8 February 1896

Final performance of The Strange Adventures of Miss Brown at Terry’s Theatre.


15 February 1896

The Edinburgh Evening News prints an extract from Buchanan’s reponse to Austin’s ‘Jameson’s Ride’, which had appeared in The Star.

The Era prints another letter from Buchanan following on from the letter of 11th January. This time Buchanan is complaining that the same paper which annoyed him before has printed “two statements which are written merely to do me injury.” The first is that his new play at the Vaudeville can only run until April when the Messrs. Gatti will resume possession of their theatre. The second refers to a lecture on “the methods of criticism”, to be delivered by Henry Murray at the Playgoers’ Club on 23rd February, which Buchanan has nothing to do with. He adds that “I have politely declined to take the chair on that occasion, as I believe Mr Murray’s views and mine on this particular subject are not altogether in accord.”

I don’t have the whole poem (it was not reprinted in The New Rome or the Collected Works) and I have no idea when it was first published in The Star.

Although Buchanan does not name the other paper, it is presumably The Stage. Whether he was also annoyed that the same anonymous writer revealed the identity of ‘Charles Marlowe’ (thus possibly spoiling the effect of the ‘grand reveal’ at the opening night of The Romance of the Shopwalker) is pure speculation on my part.

19 February 1896

The New Don Quixote receives a copyright performance at the Royalty Theatre, London.

As far as I know this was the only ‘performance’ of The New Don Quixote.

24 February 1896

There is a preview performance of The Romance of the Shopwalker at the Colchester Theatre.

An article about Buchanan is published in The Dundee Advertiser.


26 February 1896

The Romance of the Shopwalker (written in collaboration with ’Charles Marlowe’) produced at the Vaudeville Theatre, starring Weedon Grossmith.


29 February 1896

Buchanan becomes his own publisher.
Is Barabbas a Necessity? A discourse on publishers and publishing published by Robert Buchanan.
Listed in ‘Publications To-day’ in The Times (29 February).
Reviewed in The Glasgow Herald (3 March).


3 March 1896

The Devil’s Case published by Robert Buchanan.
Reviewed, unfavourably, in The Scotsman (9 March):
“The work is a piece of perverted sentiment which poses as imagination, and seeks to cheapen the great creations of Milton and Goethe.”


5 March 1896

Buchanan writes a letter to Shaw (from his Gerrard Street office) apologising for including the extract from one of his letters in his pamphlet Is Barabbas a Necessity?
After receiving a reply from Shaw, he writes a second letter.


6 March 1896

Continuing the discussion, Buchanan writes a letter to Shaw from his home address (Streatham Hill):
If Bernard Shaw is the outcome of water-drinking & vegetarianism, I mean to go in for the Buchanan Blend & avoid green stuff altogether.”


7 March 1896

Another letter to Shaw:
God bless the Theatre! If it hadn’t been for that, for its infinite worries & trivialities, I should have gone crazy long ago.”


10 March 1896

Item in The Edinburgh Evening News:
     “Mr Robert Buchanan having turned publisher of his own works, does not find things proceed very smoothly. One London morning paper, supposed to have the very largest circulation, won’t accept his advertisement, and in another Mr William Archer, the dramatic writer, has criticised him in trochaics after the style of Mr Buchanan’s latest book. It is a wise author who knows when to leave well alone, and most everyday publishers would be glad to have the advertisements which Mr Buchanan is receiving by way of criticism, and which he is finding so hard to bear.”

The newspaper which refused the advert for The Devil’s Case was The Daily Telegraph. William Archer’s review appeared in The Daily Chronicle and prompted this response from Buchanan:

Sir,—I thank you, tho’ your Poet,
Full of fun and keen to show it,
Plainly proves (experto crede!)
Easy verse is hard to write!

Ask, however bald the song is,
If the singer right or wrong is,—
Try to reckon verse no longer
Milk for babes, but strong men’s meat,—

Then, my Friend, you may discover
Jingle’s reign is nearly over.—
Yours, Bookseller, Metre-monger,
                             R. BUCHANAN,
                                 Gerrard street.

14 March 1896

A Marriage by Capture published by T. Fisher Unwin.
Reviewed in The Glasgow Herald (19 March).

David Christie Murray (brother of Henry) writes to The Era claiming that beyond the basic idea of a young man inheriting a fortune, which is taken from Samuel Warren’s Ten Thouand a Year, the rest of the plot of The Romance of the Shopwalker has been taken from his novel, The Way of the World.
In the same issue there is a reply from ‘Charles Marlowe’ saying that ‘he’ had never read Murray’s novel.



The correspondence between David Christie Murray, ‘Charles Marlowe’, Buchanan and others is available in The Romance of the Shopwalker section of Buchanan’s Letters to the Press.

16 March 1896

According to a report in The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent, Buchanan has responded to an attack by Richard Le Gallienne in The Star.

Sorry, this is a bit vague, but, as mentioned before, I have no access to The Star.

17 March 1896

The Echo publishes an interview with Buchanan under the heading ‘Every Man His Own Publisher’. The interview is conducted in Buchanan’s new office in Gerrard Street, Soho.
The two front rooms in which Mr. Robert Buchanan has set up as his own publisher still retain many signs of former grandeur. The great staircase leading up to them, and their elaborately ornamented ceilings and fine oak woodwork, tell of other times.”

36, Gerrard Street today.

19 March 1896

Item in the West of England Advertiser:
‘The Daily Chronicle has entirely broken with Mr. Robert Buchanan. The author of “The Devil’s Case” having asserted that in reviewing “Jude the Obscure” the Daily Chronicle had characterised Mr. Hardy’s work as coarse and indecent, that journal replies that the statement is “a lie from beginning to end.” To prevent Mr. Buchanan from replying in its columns to this serious charge, the Daily Chronicle declares that its columns are not open to him for an opinion on this or any other matter, and adds:—“The only method of communication in future between ourselves and this gentleman will be through our solicitors.” Is this a challenge to Mr. Buchanan to raise an action against the Chronicle, or is it a caution to the Bard that unless he is more guarded in his language the solicitors of the paper will be put upon his track?’

Buchanan’s letter about the Chronicle’s review of Jude the Obscure appeared in The Star sometime before 14th March. On 22nd September, 1895, Buchanan had asked Chatto & Windus not to send a review copy of Lady Kilpatrick to the Chronicle, which couild indicate that relations between Buchanan and the Chronicle had soured much earlier.

21 March 1896

David Christie Murray writes another letter to The Era saying that Buchanan had read his novel and had suggested that he should dramatise it. A letter from C. L. Hales supports Murray’s position.


25 March 1896

Item in The Dundee Advertiser:
     ‘Mr Robert Buchanan proposes to issue from his publishing office in Soho at an early date a new review for which a name has not yet been found. It will be edited by the bard himself, and will be written for “men, women, and critics.” The contributions will be supplied by “known and unknown writers.” Mr Buchanan has also several new works in preparation and a library edition of his poems.’

The magazine never materialised.

28 March 1896

Final performance of The Romance of the Shopwalker at the Vaudeville Theatre.

Buchanan replies to David Christie Murray’s accusation of plagiarism in The Era. He admits having read Murray’s novel, as well as Samuel Warren’s and ‘A very little reflection convinced me that the materials, being “twice told,” had become public property.’ He also says that Murray knows the identity of ‘Charles Marlowe’ and ends his letter with an appreciation of the work of Harriett Jay as a collaborator:
‘If The Shopwalker possesses any interest at all, it is because I had the help of that writer in its construction, its detail, its dialogue, and its production; and I may add, indeed, that very much of my dramatic work has had the advantage of the same invaluable aid, and the same carefully acquired experience of “stage” necessities. When any man in the street, Mr Murray or another, can offer me the same collaboration, I shall be ready to listen to him, but in the meantime I am satisfied to associate my name with that of the authoress of “The Queen of Connaught.”’

The same issue contains a letter, signed ‘Charles Marlowe (Harriett Jay)’ giving her account of the origins of The Romance of the Shopwalker. She asserts that it was she “who first suggested the idea of our play The Romance of the Shopwalker to Mr Buchanan, and we afterwards worked it out together.”
There is also a piece in The Era linking the controversy over The Romance of the Shopwalker with Buchanan’s recently published poem, The Devil’s Case.

According to Buchanan’s letter to The Era of 15th February, the Vaudeville Theatre was only available until April, so the short run was inevitable.

1 April 1896

Buchanan writes a letter to Chatto & Windus enquiring about their 1884 edition of his Complete Poetical Works since he is intending to print a new edition.

This is the only letter in the Chatto correspondence from the Gerrard Street address. The date has no year, so it could be from 1897, but since the item in The Dundee Advertiser of 25th March mentioned a ‘library edition of his poems’, I thought it more likely to be from 1896. Buchanan had acquired Chatto & Windus’ remaining stock of his Complete Poetical Works when he bought back his copyrights. According to the memorandum of October, 1889, there were 95 copies of the book, and 508 quires (unbound copies).

4 April 1896

David Christie Murray writes a final letter to The Era, replying to Buchanan and reiterating his arguments.

Given the close personal connection between David Christie Murray’s brother, Henry, and Buchanan it does seem highly likely that The Romance of the Shopwalker has its origins in Murray’s novel. Why he chose to ‘tough it out’ in the pages of The Era, rather than acknowledging the debt, is probably due to his rather lax attitude to plagiarism and perhaps his financial situation at this point.
It should also be mentioned that H. G. Wells used the same ideas (whether originated by Samuel Warren, David Christie Murray, or Buchanan and Jay) in his 1905 novel, Kipps, which was, of course, the basis for the Tommy Steele musical, Half a Sixpence, by David Heneker and Beverley Cross.

20 April 1896

Effie Hetherington published by T. Fisher Unwin.
Reviewed in The Glasgow Herald (30 April).


1 May 1896

In ‘The Ethics of Play-Licensing’, published in The Theatre, Buchanan gives his account of the problems with The New Don Quixote. Among other things he explains why the play was not produced at the Royalty Theatre despite obtaining a license:
My friend Mr. Bourchier, uneasy at the failure of certain so-called “sexual” plays, and feeling that the public was craving for livelier matter—that, in fact, the spirit of the Palais Royal and the genius of the gaudriole were more in request than serious dramatic work—suggested to me that he should postpone our play till the late autumn, and produce in the meantime something a little more skittish. To this postponement, as it contravened our agreement, I strongly objected, and I suggested as an alternative that Mr. Bourchier should pay us a forfeit and return our play; and I wish to add that, in acceding to my wishes, Mr. Bourchier acted in the handsomest possible manner, even to the extent of giving, free of charge, the copyright performance to which I have alluded.”


4 May 1896

The Romance of the Shopwalker opens its provincial tour at the City Theatre in Sheffield.


16 May 1896

Item in The Era:
     “A new and original play, written by Robert Buchanan and Charles Marlowe, described as a fanciful comedy of modern life, will be produced at the Grand Theatre and Opera House, Croydon, on Monday, June 8th, and will be played there during the week. The leading female character will be created by Miss Kate Rorke, who will be assisted by a company of London artists. New scenery is being prepared by Mr Hall. It will be remembered that Mr Beerbohm Tree and the Haymarket company opened the beautiful new Croydon theatre with Trilby, and the experiment was so successful that another record, the first production of an important original work there, will now be made.”

This is The Wanderer from Venus, which The Era of 23rd May reported was now in rehearsal.

23 May 1896

The Era publishes a letter from Robert Buchanan and Charles Marlowe concerning similarities in the recently produced Josiah’s Dream by Charles Rogers to two unproduced plays of their own. One of these works is named as the “opera, The Maiden Queen”, while the other, a “farcical comedy— involving, as it does, two acts of contemporary life, and one act which takes place in a remote period—closely resembles the structure of a comedy which we wrote more than a year ago” obviously refers to Good Old Times.

The Maiden Queen was never produced, although it was published. Good Old Times, as mentioned before, became When Knights were Bold.

30 May 1896

The Era publishes a reply from Charles Rogers to Buchanan and Marlowe’s letter of 23rd May.


8 June 1896

The Wanderer from Venus; or Twenty-four Hours with an Angel (written in collaboration with ’Charles Marlowe’) produced at the Grand Theatre, Croydon, for one week only.
Harriett Jay appears on the opening night as a last-minute replacement for Miss Vera Beringer.
George Bernard Shaw in his review of the play writes:
“The play is a variation on the Pygmalion and Galatea theme. It is full of commonplace ready-made phrases to which Mr. Buchanan could easily have given distinction and felicity if he were not absolutely the laziest and most perfunctory workman in the entire universe, save only when he is writing letters to the papers, rehabilitating Satan, or committing literary assault and battery on somebody whose works he has not read.”


As far as I know, this was Harriett Jay’s final performance as an actress.

13 June 1896

The Era publishes a letter from Buchanan protesting at the review of The Wanderer from Venus in The Daily Telegraph since the critic had left the theatre before the play had finished.


16 June 1896

Buchanan rejects Shaw’s suggestion that The New Don Quixote could be produced by the Independent Theatre Society. The letter also reveals that ‘Marcus Aurelius Short’ (aka Shaw) is a character in the play. Buchanan also says:
I wish to God I could feel about the theatre as I used to do, when I made my own little stage, & cut out & painted the characters, & worked the little show for my schoolfellows. I believe that’s the true sort of Art after all.”

This is the final (surviving) letter in the Buchanan/Shaw correspondence.

20 June 1896

Item in The Sheffield Evening Telegraph and Star:
     ‘An autograph letter of Robert Buchanan’s, dated February 6, 1862, is advertised for sale in a catalogue. It contains the following reference to David Grey:—“You have heard of dear Grey’s death. It is a mockery for Milnes, whose silent coldness made the poor boy’s last days miserable, to write a preface to the poems. It is the old story—pæans are too late now.”’

I have no further information about this letter but it is worth noting since it reveals Buchanan’s attitude to Monckton Milnes (Lord Houghton) and his Preface to Gray’s The Luggie and other poems, published in May, 1862.

1 July 1896

In ‘An Interesting Experiment’, published in The Theatre, Buchanan explains his reasons for trying out his new play, The Wanderer from Venus for a week’s run at the Grand Theatre, Croydon, rather than in the centre of London. He admits to making a “trifling loss” on the venture, but not the £2,000 to £3,000 it would have cost to produce the play in the West End.

The July issue of The Bookman includes an article by William Canton on ‘The Earlier Work of Robert Buchanan’.


11 July 1896

Item in The Era:
     “Miss Doris Hunt having acquired, by special arrangement with the authors, the second town rights of Robert Buchanan and Charles Marlowe’s A Wanderer from Venus, will commence her autumn tour on August Bank Holiday with a powerful company. The play will be rehearsed under the personal supervision of Mr Robert Buchanan, and the tour will be under the direction of Messrs Gilbert Tate and F. W. Trevalion.”

Buchanan did not transfer A Wanderer from Venus to the West End, but it did go on to tour the provinces.

3 August 1896

The provincial tour of A Wanderer from Venus begins at the Theatre Royal, Darlington.


1 October 1896

‘A Word on the Defunct Drama’ is published in The Theatre.


19 October 1896

Squire Kate is revived by Georgia Cayvan (in a revised version) at Palmer’s Theatre, New York.


14 November 1896

Item in The Era:
     ‘“The Mariners of England,” the new nautical drama by the authors of Alone in London, is in active preparation for early production in London and the provinces. It is founded on new and as yet unpublished facts connected with Lord Nelson, whose full and definitive biography is announced for publication in March next; and the same materials have been used by Mr Robert Buchanan for a new story, which is now in the press. Nelson is a leading character in the play, the scene of which is laid at the beginning of the present century. The scenery is already in hand, and a copyright performance will take place in a few days.
     Messrs Robert Buchanan and Charles Marlowe have also ready a new wildly farcical piece, to follow their Strange Adventures of Miss Brown. The title is Oh! Anastasia, and the piece is described as “a cyclone, in two storms and a hurricane.” The leading character, from whom the piece takes its name, has been offered to Mrs John Wood.’

The Mariners of England was produced in March, 1897. Oh! Anastasia never reached the stage.




16 January 1897

The Star publishes a poem by Buchanan in honour of Robert Burns’ birthday on 25th January, ‘The Robin Redbreast’.



A novelisation of The Strange Adventures of Miss Brown by Charles Marlowe (Harriett Jay) is published by Robert Buchanan.
Reviewed in
The Scotsman (8 February).


This was Harriett Jay’s final ‘novel’.

1 February 1897

‘The Quintessence of Impudence’ is published in The Theatre.
“The quintessence of impudence is surely reached when the self-constituted judges of the modern drama reproach that popular form of Art with its inferiority to the masterpieces of contemporary fiction!”

I don’t have this yet, but there are some extracts here, including more swipes at Kipling and Alfred Austin.

3 February 1897

The Aberdeen Weekly Journal publishes a piece about Buchanan referring to an “address to bookbuyers, issued from his publishing office in Gerrard Street.” In this, Buchanan states that he is about to issue five books. He also states that “I am the only surviving Religious Poet and am possibly the last of the race.”

The same ‘address to bookbuyers’ included the following, reported in Book-Bits of 27th February:
     ‘It is gratifying to learn that Mr. Robert Buchanan’s courageous experiment—that of publishing his own books—has succeeded. But in connection with “The Devil’s Case,” the first volume published by him, he makes the following characteristic remark: “I knew Logrollia too well to expect any rational treatment there, but I did expect a little sane consideration in my native land. There was a time when Scotland had brains of its own; now its culture seems to be only a weak reflection of the rushlights of Clapham.”’

6 February 1897

Item in The Glasgow Herald:
     ‘Two new volumes of poems by Mr Robert Buchanan are about to appear through his own publishing office in Gerrard Street. They are respectively entitled “The Ballad of Mary the Mother: a Christmas Carol,” and “The New Rome: Ballads and Poems of our Empire.” Both books will be illustrated, some of the pictures being drawn by Mr Buchanan himself.’

The Ballad of Mary the Mother did not appear until December, 1897. The New Rome was not published until December, 1898 - by Walter Scott, Ltd., after Buchanan had abandoned his own publishing business. Neither book was illustrated.

8 February 1897

The revival of Sweet Nancy at the Court Theatre, London, starring Annie Hughes, has a three month run until 8th May.


1 March 1897

The Mariners of England is produced at the Grand Theatre, Nottingham for one week prior to its appearance in London.


9 March 1897

The Mariners of England produced at the Olympic Theatre, London.


2 April 1897

Final performance of The Mariners of England at the Olympic Theatre.

Despite this short initial run in London, The Mariners of England (like Alone in London) fared better in the provinces and it was still touring seven years later.

17 June 1897

Buchanan writes to David Christie Murray:
     “I am getting so weary of controversy that I must decline to take part, directly or indirectly, in any more. Possibly, in the heat of annoyance, I may have said harsh things about Mr Scott, but if so, I have forgotten them, and I think all harsh things are better forgotten. I am sorry, therefore, to hear that you are on the war-path, and wish I could persuade you to turn back to the paths of peace. You are too valuable to be wasted in this sort of warfare. I daresay you will smile at such advice from me, of all men, but believe me, I speak from sad experience.
     I was sorry to hear about the fate of your play, but ’tis the fortune of war, and I hope it will only stir you to another effort which may possess, not more merit, possibly, but better
luck, which now-a-days counts more than merit.”

This letter was published in Murray’s Recollections and does indicate that their disagreement over The Romance of the Shopwalker has been resolved.

7 July 1897

Item in The Dundee Evening Telegraph:
     ‘Mr Robert Buchanan is about to publish the story of his curious and often thrilling experiences in life and literature. Beginning in the early sixties, when Mr Buchanan first came to London in company with the young Scottish poet, David Grey, the narrative will extend to the present day, and will form a sort of personal review of the literature, the criticism, the drama, as well as the religion and social progress, of the later Victorian era.
     Some notion of the nature of the narrative may be gathered from the titles of a few of the sections:—“Free Thought in Scotland,” “From Fairy Land to Fleet Street,” “Owen’s Pioneers,” “With Dickens in Bohemia,” “Lewes and George Eliot,” “The Great Fleshly School Controversy,” “The Discovery of the Kailyard,” “The American Socrates.”’

Buchanan’s autobiography was often mentioned in the Press but it was never published.

10 October 1897

Buchanan writes to the actor, Kyrle Bellew from “Ridgebourne, 55 Christchurch Road, Streatham Hill, London S.W.”

This is one of those letters offered for sale (which I can’t afford) so one has to guess a little at the brief extracts given. In this case, Buchanan is complimenting Bellew and his professional partner Mrs. Brown-Potter, but could also be offering them a play called Judith. Speculating further (or wildly) this could be a version of Christian Friedrich Hebbel’s 1840 play, Judith. Since Buchanan mentions that 'Surely Mrs Potter is a tragedienne, & wants a big serious role?' the Biblical tale of Judith and Holofernes seems to fit the bill. All speculation aside, this is the first indication of another change of address for Buchanan (and presumably Jay), although they are still in Streatham.

1 November 1897

Buchanan attends a dinner at the Authors’ Club.

According to an item in The Gloucester Citizen of 29th October:
     “The weekly house dinners at the Authors’ Club are being very well attended this season. Mr. John Coleman, the well-known actor-manager, will be the chairman next Monday, and he is bringing some ten guests, including the Earl of Fingall, Mr. Herman Vezin, Mr. Robert Buchanan, Mr. Thomas Catling, and other personal friends whose names are familiar in the dramatic and literary world. The number of members continues steadily to increase, and if it is maintained, one may hope that before long still larger premises will be secured.”

6 November 1897

The Academy publishes a list of suggested members for an ‘Academy of Letters’ as chosen by members of its staff. Robert Buchanan is not included.

The list is available here.
On 5th November, The Daily News published a comparison of The Academy’s list with the Pall Mall Gazette’s list from February, 1887.

13 November 1897

The Academy publishes three pages of responses to its ‘Academy of Letters’ list. There is only one which mentions Robert Buchanan, from his friend, Archibald Stodart-Walker.

Archibald Stodart-Walker’s letter is availsble here.
The Internet Archive has the relevant copy of The Academy (Volume 52, July-December, 1897). The other replies can be found on pages 401-403.

27 November 1897

Herbert Beerbohm Tree revives A Man’s Shadow at Her Majesty’s Theatre.


29 November 1897

Item in The Northern Daily Mail:
     “Mr Robert Buchanan is at present engaged on a novel dealing with the possible religious movements of the twentieth century. It is to be entitled “The Rev. Annabel Lee.”


11 December 1897

According to The Era Buchanan has been commissioned by Herbert Beerbohm Tree to write an adaptation of Paul Bouget’s André Cornélis.

Apart from a similar report in The Glasgow Herald, I’ve not come across any further evidence that Buchanan wrote the play.

14 December 1897

The Master of the Mine translated by Mlle. A. S. begins serialisation in the Journal de Genève.


29 December 1897

Buchanan’s response to an interview with Clement Scott in Great Thoughts is published in the Daily Mail.

Extracts from the Clement Scott interview are available on the Stage Beauty site and an extract from Buchanan’s response is available here.

30 December 1897

The Ballad of Mary the Mother: a Christmas carol (and other poems) published by Robert Buchanan.
A tipped-in ‘Special Notice’ reads:
“It has been decided, for obvious reasons, not to forward copies of this book to the Press for review. Editors who desire to notice the work, however, can procure copies by written application to the Publisher, 36, Gerrard Street, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W.”

I’ve not actually found any reviews of The Ballad of Mary the Mother, just a note in The Hull Daily Mail of 30th December announcing its publication and a further comment in the same paper of 12th January, 1898, that the book “will cause a greater outburst of Christian condemnation than any of his previous works.” The ‘obvious reasons’ for Buchanan not submitting the book for review relate to the subject matter. He did send out review copies of the other two books he issued at this time, St. Abe and His Seven Wives and The Outcast.

I think it is worth noting that when the dramatised version of Colm Tóibín’s 2012 novella, The Testament of Mary, was produced in New York in April, 2013, there were protests outside the theatre.




14 January 1898

A new edition of St. Abe and His Seven Wives is published by Robert Buchanan.
(Listed in The Times, ‘Publications To-day’ of this date).

This edition of St. Abe and His Seven Wives was the first to be published with Buchanan’s name attached. He also added a Bibliographical Note explaining the circumstances of its original publication.

19 January 1898

A review of Portentous Prophets and Prophetesses by Alec McMillan in The Dundee Courier includes the following:
‘... There are several other occultistic votaries dealt with, while a chapter is devoted to the philosophy of Max Nordau and a brief one to Robert Buchanan, the latter’s book, “The Devil’s Case,” being brought under review, and laughed at.’

I haven’t seen the book but I thought it worth mentioning this comment since it explains why Buchanan is included alongside such names as Madame Blavatsky.

21 January 1898

A new edition of The Outcast is published by Robert Buchanan.
(Listed in ‘New Books of Yesterday’ in The Glasgow Herald (22 January).

This edition of The Outcast seems to be the final production of Buchanan’s publishing venture. The same publisher’s advert appears in all three books issued at this time listing the following as “Works Written and Published by Robert Buchanan”:
1. The Devil’s Case
2. The City of Dream
3. Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan
4. Selected Poems
5. The Earthquake
6. Is Barabbas a Necessity?
7. London Poems: Old and New
8. The Wandering Jew
9. The Poems of Robert Buchanan
10. The Outcast
11. St. Abe and His Seven Wives
12. Poetical Plays
Ignoring the announcements in the Press of his publishing intentions, and going on reviews and the existence of copies in libraries and archives, of these 12 titles, only the pamphlet, Is Barabbas a Necessity?, and The Devil’s Case, The Outcast and St. Abe and His Seven Wives seem to have been printed. Add to that The Ballad of Mary the Mother and the novelisation by Harriett Jay of The Strange Adventures of Miss Brown and the sum total of Buchanan’s publishing venture seems to be 1 pamphlet, 1 novel and 4 books of poetry (2 of which are reprints of earlier work).

Harriett Jay begins Chapter 29 of her biography with the following:
    ‘From the blow of his mother’s death he never really recovered, and though he returned to his work it was not with the same heart, the same enthusiasm. It was at this time (1895) that he carried out an idea over which he had pondered for some time, that of becoming his own publisher. In this way he issued his last two volumes of poetry, “The Devil’s Case” and “The Ballad of Mary the Mother,” but the experiment was not successful, and he tired of it almost as soon as it had been begun, indeed so little interested was he in this new departure that his stories “Effie Hetherington,” “Marriage by Capture,” and “Diana’s Hunting” were at that very time sold to and issued by Mr. Fisher Unwin.’

22 January 1898

Item in The Era:
     “Mr Robert Buchanan’s play The Mariners of England will shortly be sent on tour under the direction of Mr Herbert Sleath.”


February 1898

The Truth about the Game Laws: a record of cruelty, selfishness, and oppression by J. Connell, with a Preface by Robert Buchanan, is published by the Humanitarian League.
Reviewed in The Guardian (8 February).


19 February 1898

Father Anthony begins serialisation in the supplement to The Graphic, ‘The Golden Penny’ and The Leeds Times.
An interview with Buchanan was also published in both papers.

The serialisation in ‘The Golden Penny’ is illustrated by Sydney Cowell. The first page is available here.
The novel also appears in the Weekly Welcome on 21st February.

12 March 1898

Item in The Dundee Evening Telegraph:
     ‘Mr Robert Buchanan is writing a series of “Latterday Letters” for the Sunday Special. He rails against all things and persons conventional. The first “Letter,” which appears on Sunday, is addressed to the Prince of Wales, and attacks the Censor of Plays.’

Buchanan had tried writing a regular newspaper column in 1891 for The Echo under the title ‘Latter-Day Leaves’ which had only lasted for a couple of months. I have not seen his contributions to The Sunday Special, apart from the one which was published on 31st December, 1899, which was reprinted in the Jay biography. According to Christopher Murray’s unpublished PhD. thesis on Robert Buchanan:

‘That he was still considered a polemist of power is implicit in the offer made by the editor of the newly-founded Sunday Special in early 1898 to discuss topical issues as freely as the law of libel allowed every Sunday for as long as he liked. For a year, with occasional interruptions, Buchanan fulminated on his pet topics, from capital punishment to vivisection, from militarism to scientific materialism, from Positivism to Christianity; it was his last chance to inveigh against all the ills discernible in the last years of Queen Victoria’s reign. The editor was inundated with letters when Buchanan called the hero of Omdurman “a rat-catcher killing Dervishes”, and when he published his memoirs of those early benefactors of his Robert Browning, George Eliot and G. H. Lewes it was indignantly asked of him, who would not let such considerations encourage reticence in such matters, whether he knew the meaning of gratitude. Much of what he wrote was merely the repetition of opinions stated often enough before; much is of interest now only to the social historian; but some is worthy of the literary historian’s notice; and Buchanan’s honest reflections on literature and its leading figures of his day are well worth preserving.’

19 March 1898

The Rev. Annabel Lee: a tale of to-morrow published by C. Arthur Pearson, Ltd.
Reviewed in
The Scotsman (24 March).



28 March 1898

W. S. Gilbert sues The Era for libel and the case is heard in the Queen’s Bench Division. Buchanan attends the proceedings with several other members of the theatrical profession, including Sir Henry Irving, Bram Stoker and Herbert Beerbohm Tree. The case concludes the following day.

The Era of 2nd April carried a two page report of the case, and although Buchanan took no part, it can be accessed here: Page 1     Page 2.

3 April 1898

‘The Jester as Moral Pioneer’, an open letter to George Bernard Shaw, is published in the Sunday Special.


24 April 1898

‘The “Translation” of Bottom the Realist’, a second open letter to George Bernard Shaw, is published in the Sunday Special.


30 April 1898

The Era publishes a letter from Harriett Jay explaining why she and Buchanan are removing their names from all future productions of The Mariners of England. They have sold all the British rights in the play and “have given the purchaser carte blanche to alter and produce it in any way he thinks expedient.” The letter concludes:
     “I am desired by Mr Buchanan to add that his chief reason for disassociating himself from this particular play is the fact that the attempt to celebrate the achievement of a real national Hero has been construed, in some quarters, into sympathy with more ignoble manifestations of the national (or Jingo) spirit, against which he has always protested in his writings. It is better, therefore, that the fame and name of Nelson should be relinquished altogether into other hands.”

On 29th May, 1911 an edited version of The Mariners of England featuring the scenes set aboard the Victory, was produced at the Glasgow Coliseum under the title, ’Twas In Trafalgar’s Bay. Herbert Sleath, who had secured the rights and toured the provinces for at least seven years with the original play, was also responsible for this version, which was still touring variety theatres (sometimes under the title Trafalgar) after the outbreak of the First World War. And Buchanan’s name was still  mentioned as the author of the piece in reviews.

30 May 1898

Item in The Aberdeen Journal:
     ‘Mr John Long, the publisher, has acquired all the volume rights in Mr Robert Buchanan’s new novel of Irish life, entitled “Father Anthony,” which he will publish in the early autumn.’


31 May 1898

George Bedborough is arrested on obscenity charges. Specifically for selling copies of Havelock Ellis’ Sexual Inversion.


June 1898

The June edition of the Tailor & Cutter has an article about the styles of dress of several literary celebrities. It was reprinted in The Hampshire Telegraph of 25th June and Robert Buchanan was described thus:
     “Mr. Buchanan has a preference for easy-fitting lounge jackets, but has little or no taste in the arrangement of his attire, and has been guilty of the indiscretion of wearing light-coloured coats, white waistcoats and dark trousers. He favours rough homespuns of Caledonian manufacture for general wear, but on special occasions resorts to the delicacy of a pretty light or white vest.”


6 June 1898

Item in The Leeds Mercury:
                           “THE LEGITIMATION LEAGUE
     A public meeting was held yesterday afternoon in the Athenæum Hall, Tottenham Court-road, London, to protest against the arrest of Mr. George Bedborough, hon. secretary of the Legitimation League, for selling a copy of Mr. Havelock Ellis’s scientific work on “The Psychology of Sex.” It was decided to establish a Defence Committee and a defence fund. Amongst those who have joined the committee is Mr. Robert Buchanan.’


8 June 1898

Buchanan writes a letter to Marie Corelli (from the Christchurch Road address) regretting being unable to attend the funeral of her step-brother, Eric Mackay, due to illness.


12 June 1898

Item in Reynolds’s Newspaper:
     “Among those who have joined the Free Press Defence Committee, founded as a result of the Bedborough prosecution, are Messrs. Robert Buchanan, Herbert Burrows, Walter Crane, George Bernard Shaw, J. M. Robertson, Edward Carpenter, Geo. Jacob Holyoake, William Platt, Oswald Dawson, Henry Bazett, M.A., Edward Temple, Thomas Squire Barrett, Jaggard and Co. (publishers), J. B. Askew, R. Braithwaite (barrister-at-law), and Miss Edith Lanchester.”


13 June 1898

George Bedborough is charged at Bow Street Police Court. A report of the hearing was printed in Reynolds’s Newspaper on 19th June.

To avoid a prison sentence, Bedborough subsequently pleaded guilty, so there was no court case for the Free Press Defence Committee to fight. Instead, they issued a pamphlet, ‘The Bedborough Case’. The Internet Archive has the statement of accounts of the Free Press Defence Committee, in which Buchanan’s name does not appear at all.

20 June 1898

J. F. Elliston’s production of Alone in London begins its twelfth year of touring the provinces at the Theatre Royal, Hanley.


5 July 1898

The annual Music Hall Sports take place at the Herne Hill grounds in South London. The One Mile Champion Cup Bicycle Race, presented by Robert Buchanan, is won by Alf Lotto.


15 July 1898

Item in The Yorkshire Evening Post:
     Mr. Robert Buchanan is writing his reminiscences. He is doing so, says the British Weekly, with the gloves off, and this is to be no dead-and-alive book. It will take up frankly his life from the beginning, and his old battles will be fought over again. Mr. Buchanan is courageous, as the volume is to be published at the price of about 14s.”

Another story about Buchanan’s promised autobiography. This one was repeated in The Era and The New York Times but like the others, came to nothing.

23 September 1898

Item in The Lichfield Mercury:
     ‘Mr. Robert Buchanan, the novelist, has been giving his views on the Ritualistic controversy in a London morning paper. He thinks that “dogmas of every kind are best left alone, and that it is quite possible for Catholics, Protestants, and freethinkers to live amicably in this very difficult world. But I really do think that the day of reconciliation is being indefinitely postponed, when such old parrot-cries as those of Jesuitism, &c., still fill the air.”’

Sorry, I have no idea which ‘London morning paper’ originally published this, or when.

18 October 1898

Father Anthony published by John Long.
According to The Aberdeen Journal of 19th October:
     ‘Mr Robert Buchanan’s new romance, “Father Anthony,” was published yesterday. It is a story of modern Ireland, and is founded, more or less closely, on facts which came to the writer’s knowledge during a long residence in the “distressful country.” It is dedicated in terms of hearty sympathy to a well-known member of the Irish priesthood.’


21 November 1898

Two Little Maids from School (an adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ Les Demoiselles de St. Cyr, written in collaboration with Harriett Jay) is produced at the Metropole Theatre, Camberwell. Buchanan directs and finances the production himself and hires the Metropole for one week, with the intention of taking the play to the West End in the following spring.


This was Buchanan’s final play to reach the stage during his lifetime. The transfer to the West End never happened. An extract from Buchanan’s diary at this time gives an idea of his frame of mind:
“During the last few weeks I have felt particularly well, better than I have done for months. I was able to attend all the rehearsals of ‘Two Little Maids,’ which were more than usually arduous, without experiencing much fatigue. Intellectually, too, I feel stronger, more fitted for the work I want and mean to do, if I can keep in tolerably good form.”
(Jay, Chapter XXIX).

26 November 1898

The Era publishes a letter from Buchanan about his adaptation of Les Demoiselles de St. Cyr.


30 November 1898

The New Rome: poems and ballads of our empire published by Walter Scott, Ltd.
Reviewed in The Scotsman (7 December):
“Beside the thunders of the rhythmic indignation of the Roman, these smaller utterances sound like the ingeniously-contrived bleatings of a toy lamb; and, when a book takes up such a thesis as the vices and follies of the contemporary age, serious men want sterner stuff than this.”

This was Buchanan’s final book of poetry. The last poem in the book is ‘I End As I Began’.

December 1898

The Christmas number of The Golden Penny includes a story by Buchanan entitled ‘A London Episode’.

I’ve not been able to track this down. However, see the note on ‘My Good Fairy’ below.

10 December 1898

Buchanan’s ‘Miss Birchington’s Love Story’ is published in the Supplement to the Nottinghamshire Guardian.


17 December 1898

Item in The Dundee Advertiser:
     ‘A novel by Mr Robert Buchanan, provisionally entitled “The New Don Quixote,” will be published about March by Mr John Long.’

The novel never appeared.

24 December 1898

Buchanan’s short story, ‘My Good Fairy’ is published in the New Zealand newspaper, The Star.

‘My Good Fairy’ is subtitled ‘A London Episode’ and was also printed in another New Zealand paper, the Canterbury Times, and The West Australian around this time. I’m wondering if this could be a reprint of the story in The Golden Penny.

27 December 1898

Item in The Dundee Courier:
     ‘The demand for Mr Robert Buchanan’s novel, “Father Anthony,” has been such that Mr John Long, the publisher, has been temporarily unable to cope with it. He has now overcome the difficulty, and a large third edition is now ready, a large fourth edition being in the press.’

Father Anthony was one of Buchanan’s most popular novels. John Long published three distinct editions, the original at 6s, an illustrated version at 3s 6d and a cheap, sixpenny edition. Combined sales, according to a report in The Sheffield Daily Telegraph of 3rd July, 1901, were “considerably over 100,000 copies.” There were also American and French editions.
I don’t know how much money Buchanan made from the book. The report mentioned above does state that Long “acquired the copyright in 1898 from the author” which suggests that Buchanan followed his usual practice of selling the book for a lump sum, thus missing out on its subsequent success. His successful application for a Royal Literary Fund grant in March, 1899, does seem to support this.

Robert Buchanan Timeline - continued



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